When prominent members of the Yale community voice their opinions on divisive issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, particularly hurtful and demeaning statements need to be swiftly and sharply addressed by the administration, students and staff. On Aug. 26, the New York Times posted a letter to the editor from Yale’s own Rev. Bruce Shipman, campus Episcopal chaplain, in which Rev. Shipman propagated decades-old misconceptions about Jews and Israel — and publicly participated in fanning the flames of anti-Semitism currently rampant around the world.
Most inflammatory was his supposed connection between “Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond.” As has been documented in the media, demonstrations in Europe organized to protest Israel’s defense of its borders from the terrorist group Hamas became anti-Semitic demonstrations. Protestors did not chant “stop the Israelis” in the recent demonstrations across Europe; they chanted “kill the Jews” and “gas the Jews”. When bombs are thrown at synagogues, as they recently were in Western Germany and Toulouse, that act of hatred is against Jews, no matter their political beliefs — not against Israel.
The façade of protest against Israel’s military has allowed hideous anti-Semitic statements to escape condemnation. Now that Rev. Shipman is attempting to bring this sinister allusion to Yale’s campus, it must be condemned in the strongest tone possible: declared untrue and contrary to Yale’s values of respectful, honest discussion.
There are ways to protest against Israel’s policies without making anti-Semitic statements. Israel is not made up only of Jews; it is a model for religious tolerance, a beacon of democracy and freedom in the Middle East, home to Arabs, Christians, Druze and many other religions. Israel is, in fact, one of the only places in the Middle East where citizens are free to criticize their own government. We do not criticize all Catholics for statements we disagree with from the Vatican, nor do we criticize all Muslims for laws or actions we disagree with in predominately Muslim nations. Jews are no exception.
Even more sickening is Rev. Shipman’s statement that the “best antidote for anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.” Deliberate use of “final-status resolution” and “Palestinian question” raises the specter of the Holocaust and the resolution of the “Jewish Question”: the Nazi’s genocide of the Jewish people in Europe. Though he likely desires a peaceful end to the conflict, Rev. Shipman insinuates that the Israelis are conducting genocide against Palestinians by using these terms. Such a statement is indefensible. Israel is protecting its borders and its citizens from rocket attacks and tunnel penetrations. No nation would permit such a threat to its citizens and national security from a radical terrorist group.
As a Jew living in the diaspora, I am in no way responsible for Israel’s actions. I am not Israeli. There is no reason that any political action of Israel should affect my life, or any diaspora Jew anywhere. I happen to be fully supportive of Israel and its defense strategy and hope that the eventual disarmament of Hamas will lead to long-term peace.
I, like many other Jews and students on campus, am astonished and appalled that Rev. Shipman would say such untrue, hateful words about Jews and Israel. I am deeply ashamed, however, that the “Yale” name appears next to his at the bottom of that letter. Yale must be a place for honest intellectual debate. Yale University and the Yale community stand to lose when leaders on its campus — whether or not they are directly employed by the University — spew hateful, anti-Semitic speech.
Joshua Isackson a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.